I woke up this morning with this big chunk of sadness sitting on my chest and in my throat.
Some of it, I guess is that this is the first week back to the grind … well, my grind at least. Last week was nothing but excitement for the blizzard and then enduring the blizzard (which was a little tedious by Day 3, to be honest). Today, it’s business as usual, which included getting the 7-year old to school at 7:30 am for a supplemental reading program, coming home and then turning around to get the 10-year old to school by 8:45 am. Fat pain in the ass. So the anxiety of a 5-day week is certainly present.
I also have an audition for a spot in a national print ad tomorrow. I haven’t had an audition in a long time and these things always make me feel so vulnerable. I signed up for a “real person” modeling agency about two years ago and have managed to get two or three gigs as secondary ‘talent’ (I usually get the part of ‘blurred woman in background’ – that’s the ‘talent’ I bring to these shoots). The easiest gig got me $75 for about 45 minutes worth of work, and I actually saw the photo in a local publication. The most challenging gig got me $350 and 6 hours of feeling self-conscious – which then evolved into anger from allowing myself to feel … less … than the main talent at the shoot. Anyway, I’m not a model. I don’t want to be one when I grow up. I just like making a few extra bucks now and again. But I can almost guarantee that I’ll spend most of tonight with my teeth and fists clenched tight, worrying about the audition. Not knowing what is expected of me, or if I’ll meet those expectations, destroys me.
The real sadness, I think, is that Monday sucks. While I enjoy having a quiet house and enjoy that time to get the house back in order after the weekend (tidying, laundry, groceries, bills, etc.), I have realized that I hate knowing that I’m on my own until I get my kids at 3 pm. And then we’re on our own until my husband comes home around 5 or 6 (or later). I miss them when they aren’t here. I miss them so much. And this is a bizarre realization, after being a stay-at-home more for close to 4 years now, because I’ve not always felt that way. I think the first two years after I left the agency for the full-time-home gig, I was resentful. Everything was inconvenient. All I wanted to do was be out of my house. A stay at home mom that absolutely couldn’t stay at home! In the past year, I've made some changes to my home that actually make me want to spend more time in it. I've taken the space that we occupied for 10 years and made it into a home. Big difference.
The beginning of this school year wasn’t easy. Our afternoon homework sessions were agonizing! My son couldn’t focus for more than 3 minutes and I ended up yelling at him because he wasn’t understanding things fast enough. It was awful. I found myself drinking more – and earlier in the day – than I had been in a long time. By the time Carlo would come home at night, I’d be stressed out and angry. It was a terrible way to spend our time together.
Sometime either right before, or maybe right after, Thanksgiving break, I had an a-ha moment. An a-ha moment that was triggered by a few containers of Yoplait yogurt. And the very short story is this: my kids behave really well and can focus on work if they like the after school snack that I plan. If I get them home, share a likeable snack with them and give them 15 minutes of ‘down’ time with me…they can focus. That’s it. It’s actually that easy. And with this brilliant plan, I’ve found that I enjoy bringing them back home after school. I enjoy that time with them. I’m helping my little guy learn to read with confidence and I score a few points with my daughter when I display my mad algebra skills – this is what parents do, I realize (10 years later)! I no longer feel like they’re taking time from me but rather, like I’m sharing my time with them. That may sound like semantics, but the change in approach has made a giant impact on our relationship with each other. That time isn’t painful – for anyone – anymore. And by about 11 am on any given Monday, I need them home so we can share that.
It’s funny to think that for the first 6 years of my daughter’s life (and for the first 4 years of my son’s), I worked. And every day that I was in the office, or locked away in my home office trying to get stuff done, I felt bad about not being at home – or in the moment -- with the kids. And then when I had all that time to be home with the kids, I was angry about how demanding they were.
I wish we could get do-overs – I’d totally do-over those years where I felt like they were taking too much from me. If I’d have given more generously, I don’t think I would have felt like they were taking so much. But, I guess the best part of this is being aware of it now and seizing the moments that I do have with them. Probably giving into an occasional cry on a Monday morning wouldn’t be the worst thing either.